Nick Johnson is still coming to bat to the Miley Cyrus earworm “Party in the USA” (a song so insidious that even our own Cliff Corcoran, normally a pillar of taste and decency, could not stop humming it at Monday night’s Yankees game, until I threatened to stab him with a pencil). But I will not make fun of Johnson for that today, because he got on base all five times he came to bat, with a home run, a double, and three walks. The Yankees ended up needing every run they could scrape together, as seven innings of fairly stress-free cruising turned into a nail-biter thanks to Andy Pettitte’s early exit (with elbow stiffness) and the twitchiness of the Mariano- and Joba-less bullpen; New York held on by their fingernails for a 7-5 win and a sweep of the Orioles.
The Yanks are increasingly banged up, and today it was Battlecat Pettitte’s turn to leave the game early with stiffness. This came shortly after the fourth inning, in which he loaded the bases with one out, got Matt Wieters to strike out, walked in a run, and then wriggled out of further trouble with a Craig Tatum groundout – the quintessential bend-don’t-break Pettitte of recent years. Early reports are that his subsequent MRI indicated mild inflammation, which doesn’t sound too bad… but then, who knows – multiple members of the 2009 Mets left games with a mild inflammation and were never seen again.
The New York hitters never exactly bludgeoned O’s starter David Hernandez, but they knocked him around for a few innings, much like my friend’s cat behaves when it has a spider cornered. He wasn’t helped by a number of sloppy plays and lackadaisical baserunning on the part of his teammates, and neither, I’d wager, was Dave Trembley’s blood pressure. Nick Johnson hit a booming home run in the first; Nick Swisher homered in the second; Alex Rodriguez singled Jeter home in the third. In the fourth the Yankees put together a messy rally through walks, singles, a bunt and a fielder’s choice, knocking Hernandez out of the game and putting the score at a then-comfortable 6-1.
Sergio Mitre kept things under control for several innings after Andy Pettitte’s departure – and maybe earned himself a spot start if Pettitte needs to miss a game – before giving up a two-run homer to Ty Wigginton (ASIDE: I only just realized I have been incorrectly writing “Wiggington” for many, many years). Damaso Marte got New York out of the eighth, but Joe Girardi’s Reliever Roulette luck ran out in the ninth: Dave Robertson was awful, giving up two homers and swelling his ERA to 14.21, and Boone Logan could not staunch the bleeding, getting one out but walking two Orioles, and leaving the game with the go-ahead run at the plate. Finally, Alfredo Aceves came to the rescue and induced a fly ball from Wigginton. No harm, no foul, but nothing shakes up a baseball fan’s soul like a terrifyingly unpredictable bullpen — and for Yankees fans, pretty much any bullpen that does not have Mariano Rivera available qualifies as terrifyingly unpredictable.
Meanwhile, it seems Dallas Braden has still not recovered from the emotional scars he received when his pitching mound was stepped on several weeks ago. He also actually said the words “We don’t do a lot of talking in the 209,” with “the 209″ apparently referring to Stockton, California. This is now officially the most inane, ridiculous baseball story we’ve had in quite some time, and I have to say I’m enjoying it immensely.